End Life Without Parole, Legalize Prostitution, Joe Kennedy III Says

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/08/05/end-life-without-parole-legalize-prostitution-joe-kennedy-iii-says/

U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III wants to end life without parole prison sentences and legalize prostitution.

Kennedy, who is challenging U.S. Senator Ed Markey in the Democratic primary September 1, appeared in an online forum featuring formerly incarcerated people as questioners Tuesday night.

He agreed with the premises and the implied direction of every question he got.

One woman asked Kennedy about life without parole. Kennedy during his answer made an allusion to his late grandfather, Robert F. Kennedy, who as a U.S. senator running for president was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968. Sirhan, now 76, is still in prison.

A transcript of the exchange follows:


Questioner:  Good evening, Congressman Kennedy. You’ve publicly stated that you support ending life without parole in Massachusetts and on the federal level for minors only. As a survivor mom, who was incarcerated when my 22-year-old daughter Brianna was killed by violence, yet does not believe in locking people up and throwing away the key, from experience, I know that prisons do not equate to individual accountability and public safety.  Rep. Kennedy, would you publicly call for Massachusetts, and federally, to end life without parole sentences for everyone?


Joe Kennedy:  Ma’am, ah, yes. And, [pause] this is an issue I’ve thought an awful lot about. The, ah – [pause]  Violence has obviously touched parts of many American families. And [pause] this one, candidly, has been one that I’ve had to wrestle with. A man who killed a member of my own family is still permanently incarcerated. But he was given an option of parole.

Ma’am, I, ahm, have thought a lot about this of late. I recently came out in favor of ending life without parole sentences, for everyone.

I do think it is important to make sure that the voices of victims and victims’ families are heard in those parole hearings. I think it’s important that those voices are given the audience that they need. I also think that, for folks that have been incarcerated for 50, 60, sometimes longer, years, 70 years, long, that they should be given the chance to be able to make the case for their release.

This one, I want to make sure those victims’ voices are heard in that process.


The next question came from a woman whom the moderator identified as Quinn, and then described her as “a survivor of incest who entered the sex trade at 15 after leaving her home, and is now an organizer with the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Boston.”

The woman described her work against legislation that would have targeted an online platform that connects prostitutes with customers.

She asked, in part:  “Do you support the full decriminalization of sex work, on the state and federal level?”

Kennedy responded:  “Quinn, yes, I do. … And if there is an example of an industry that is going to persist, despite the fact that it’s illegal, it might be sex work. … I do believe that the time has come to decriminalize, legalize, sex work.”

He said new legislation ought to include “criminal penalties for sex trafficking.”

“What we don’t want is to end up with a greater degree of exploitation,” Kennedy said.

The Zoom forum Tuesday, August 4 was recorded by WGBH, moderated by Families for Justice as Healing founder Andrea James, and co-hosted by the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University and the Justice Reform Coalition.

During the forum Kennedy said he supports issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. He called for repealing the 1994 federal crime bill, and he criticized the war on drugs, calling for more mental health care and less incarceration.

Kennedy also took a question from a current inmate at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum security state prison in Shirley.

The man, Derrick Washington, is serving a life without parole sentence after his convictions for first degree murder and armed robbery.

According to court documents, Washington in February 2005 with two other men pressured an acquaintance to lure a cocaine dealer into a house to rob him. They then pressured the drug dealer into going to his girlfriend’s house to get $20,000 in cash, which the three men divided among them, according to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in 2011 reviewing the case.

“Despite having the cash in hand,” the court said, Washington and the two accomplices brought the drug dealer, his driver, and the man who had called the drug dealer up to the attic of the house, “tied them up, and shot at them.”

The drug dealer and his driver died, but the man who had called the drug dealer wasn’t hit, and later got away after pretending to be dead, according to the court decision, which denied Washington a new trial.

Washington currently advocates for voting rights to be restored to inmates in Massachusetts prisons.

“At Souza-Baranowski, these conditions are horrible. It’s beyond punishment. It’s continuous torture, to say the least. I believe that these conditions are the way they are because we don’t have representation. Representation is simply just being able to pick the people who make the laws that govern our everyday environment,” Washington said.

Washington asked Kennedy:  “So, our position is:  Where do y’all stand on incarcerated sufferage? Because without sufferage, we’re suffering.”

Kennedy responded:


Mr. Washington, I’m grateful that you made the time to speak with me tonight, and thank you for your advocacy.

I agree. I don’t — It has long not made sense to me that the remedy for somebody breaking the law, is that they would lose their ability to case what was defined by our, the founders of our country, as a God-given right, which is the right to vote. And so, I agree that an incarcerated individual should have that right, will work to make sure that that is the case.

And thank you for your work, sir.